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Classes to Visit

A selection of classes

A visit to SFCM is more than having a meeting and taking a tour. It’s chance to experience what it’s like to be student. During your visit to the Conservatory, you’ll have the opportunity to sit in on classes associated with your program, getting a feel for the curriculum, the student body, and the culture of the school. See below for a selection of classes you could audit during your visit.

Introduction to Western Civilization

A survey of the major forces that have shaped Western civilizations as reflected in art, literature, history, religion, and philosophy. Students develop the critical sense necessary to evaluate these disciplines and to understand their relationships.

Alexander Technique

Musicians often suffer from back pains, tendonitis, poor posture, and less-than-adequate performance due to muscle tension and unconscious postural habits. The Alexander Technique provides a way of returning to a more comfortable and efficient state, with greater spontaneity and improved tonal quality. Get your comfortable clothing ready.

Music and the Brain

How do we hear, learn, and play music? We are often told that musicians have different brains, but in what ways are they different? Is that a result of nature or nurture? This course is designed to provide students with an overview of how the brain works, with respect to several aspects related to music: hearing, attention, memory, creativity, and the development of expertise. Students also explore how musical training affects child development and how brain damage can provide insights into the complex world of music cognition. Through active discussion, students hone their critical thinking skills and develop a deeper understanding of brain function.

First-year Musicianship

This class concentrates on building a firm foundation in musicianship through drills, dictation, and performance exercises. Exercises include sight-singing and melodic dictation of major and minor melodies in the F, G, and C clefs (with modulation to the dominant), rhythmic drills involving simple and compound meter, diatonic harmonic dictation (including triads and inversions), dominant sevenths and inversions and some secondary dominants, and sing-and-play drills involving the same harmonic material.

Large Ensemble

Large ensembles include the Conservatory Orchestra, New Music Ensemble, and Baroque Ensemble, groups that rehearse and perform the respective stylistic repertoire. Each ensemble presents several performances each year in which student soloists are featured frequently. Orchestra musicians often perform opera productions throughout the year. Recent guest conductors have included Christian Reif, Alan Pierson, and Christopher Rountree.

Brass Choir

Brass Choir brings together a cadre of brass musicians to rehearse and perform literature spanning centuries composed specifically for brass ensemble and music without a fixed instrumentation, including baroque works and pieces from other stylistic periods.

Composition Workshop

This course explores the many ways to compose, using models from both the past and present. The focus is on the "nuts and bolts" of shaping and transforming musical materials in all types of instrumental and vocal music.

Guitar Ensemble

In this class, students rehearse pieces composed for guitar ensemble as a large group. Smaller ensembles are formed at the beginning of the class, and each is coached throughout the semester. Students are especially encouraged to form ensembles with other instrumentalists.

Guitar Literature: Modern

This course covers contemporary literature for guitar. Composers are discussed in depth, country by country. Unusual effects and notation are examined, and emphasis is placed on very recent literature.

Introduction to Performance Practice

Introduction to Performance Practice is a general introduction and survey of the study of performance practice from 1600 to the present. The course examines fundamental musical topics and concepts such as rhythm, rubato, tempo, vibrato, and improvisation.

Continuo Playing and Baroque Improvisation

This course explores continuo playing for piano, harpsichord, cello, bassoon, and double bass as well as baroque improvisation for voice, violin, viola, flute, and oboe, focusing on ornamenting arias and solo instrumental works. The class is designed as an introduction to playing figured bass as well as to embellishing vocal and instrumental music.

Piano Forum

This class gives pianists an opportunity to try out new repertoire in a communal setting. Each performance is followed by a discussion among the pianists and faculty members present, modeling a master class environment.

Keyboard Literature

A study of keyboard literature for piano, organ, harpsichord, virginal, clavichord, and fortepiano covering early, classical, romantic, and modern literature. Each semester, a specific body of works is studied, such as Bach's Well-Tempered Clavier, the sonatas of Mozart and Haydn, the romantic repertoire of Chopin, Schumann, Brahms and Liszt, and 20th-century works by Copland, Schoenberg, Scriabin, and Debussy.

Percussion Ensemble

This class culminates with a concert at the end of each semester. Students are taught techniques for performing in chamber ensembles without a conductor. Additionally, time is spent discussing technical issues not included in lesson times.

Jazz Seminar

This course is required for RJAM majors and open to students from other programs, as well. Students follow a comprehensive, sequential study of jazz styles, repertoire, improvisation, and composition through exposure to select jazz artists such as Louis Armstrong, Duke Ellington, Charlie Parker, Miles Davis, Dave Brubeck, John Coltrane, and others. Students immerse themselves in the music of these artists through projects in transcription, improvisation, composition, and ensemble playing.

Chamber Music: String and Piano

This course gives students the opportunity to have a two-hour coaching session in their group every week, not counting regular rehearsal time. It includes a weekly two-hour master class as well as frequent guest master classes and performances.

Technical Ear Training

Technical Ear Training is intended to follow the traditional musicianship sequence by analyzing, identifying, and articulating numerical ranges related to frequency, velocity, and selected processes' standard measurements through active listening and practice. Students learn to focus their ear toward a professional standard for producing high-quality mixes.

Introduction to Sound Design

Students learn practices of Foley, voice, and sound design through field recording, working with narrative and actors, developing sound effects, layering samples, and incorporating synthesizers. By the end of this course, students understand signal chains of effects and musicality in sound implementation as well as the emotional and narrative aspects of sound.

Woodwind Chamber Music

This is a performance class dedicated to the study of woodwind chamber music. Once groups are formed at the beginning of the semester, they receive weekly coachings, leading up to a performance at the end of the semester. Class time is used for master classes with woodwind faculty members.

Vocal Performance Lab

In this course, voice students perform in front of peers, receiving critiques from the faculty. The Vocal Performance Lab takes the form of a forum, where students are offered the opportunity to perform for an audience and receive instruction.

Opera Workshop

This class introduces voice majors to opera, stressing vocal and stage styles of various periods through performances of operatic scenes. Other material covered includes acting, stagecraft, secco recitativo training and audition techniques. The class culminates with a public performance each semester in a workshop setting with piano accompaniment and conductor.